Historical ecology of Lessepsian migration

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The "Lessepsian migration" is the largest marine biological invasion in the world. Hundreds of species have already passed the Suez Canal and settled in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. In the last few decades, scientists have monitored the process with increased accuracy and depth. A considerable amount of data are available on the current range of alien species and many studies are focusing on their impacts.

There is little information, however, on the early stages of this process. Since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, records of alien species started to be published but their spatial and temporal coverage was limited. Only in the second half of the 20th century systematic studies started to address quantitatively the distribution and abundance of alien species.

The aim of this project is to overcome the lack of recorded direct observation of the early phases of the Lessepsian migration and to answer the following questions:

  • what did the benthic assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea look like before the onset of the invasion?
  • how much time has elapsed between the settlement of alien species and the first published records?
  • how did the benthic assemblages responded during the massive introduction of alien species?


To explore the past of the Lessepsian invasion, we will use the techniques and approaches of paleontologists:

  • We will study the hard parts of marine organisms left after their death and preserved in sediments
  • We will collect sediment cores to access the assemblages older than the opening of the Suez Canal which are now buried under younger sediments
  • We will date shells to put into a chronological context the changes we will observe


Paolo G. Albano (Principal Investigator): email, website

Project funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Project P 28983-B29

Last update: 28 July 2021